Search

'Ruffians and scallywags' - A brief history of Prince of Wales Road

PUBLISHED: 09:59 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 13 August 2019

ABC Cinema exterior. The Regent as it was formerly known opened in 1923. In 1973 it was split into a multi-screen cimema and changed its name to the ABC and in 1987 the named changed again this time to the Cannon. On October 29th 2000 the cinema was closed and there are plans (2003) to turn it into a nightclub  . Taken 15 February 1986. Picture: Archant Library

ABC Cinema exterior. The Regent as it was formerly known opened in 1923. In 1973 it was split into a multi-screen cimema and changed its name to the ABC and in 1987 the named changed again this time to the Cannon. On October 29th 2000 the cinema was closed and there are plans (2003) to turn it into a nightclub . Taken 15 February 1986. Picture: Archant Library

Trouble was brewing in Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, and angry residents had raised a petition demanding action.

Norwich before the War - The Regent. Picture: Timereel/Archant LibraryNorwich before the War - The Regent. Picture: Timereel/Archant Library

They were sick of the rowdy behaviour by young ruffians and scallywags.

Nothing new in this you may think.

Prince of Wales Road is the notorious heart of club land in the 21st century, it has been described as the most dangerous street in the whole of Norfolk and more recently a "human pigsty."

The thing is, this petition was presented to the Chief Constable way back in 1927.

Regent Theatre on Prince of Wales Road. Picture: Archant LibraryRegent Theatre on Prince of Wales Road. Picture: Archant Library

In those days Norwich had its own Chief Constable, the legendary John Henry Dain who founded the Lads Club, and its own police force.

Members of The Watch Committee, as the name suggests, kept a close eye on activities in the city.

Minutes reveal: March 18 1927. Resolved.

"After hearing a report from the Chief Constable that he had received a petition from residents of Prince of Wales Road relative to the rowdyism in this road by young persons at night. And that he was using every means to stop the nuisance, that a further report be furnished to this committee in three months time."

ABC Cinema on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. Picture: Steve AdamsABC Cinema on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

Those were the days when were still some police offers who had difficulty in reading and writing.

So, after than arresting a troublemaker which would involve a written report and a possible court appearance, there were some officers who opted for an alternative way of dealing with the situation.

That could be a traditional Norfolk "ding round the lug" and it often had the desired effect.

At the Watch Committee meeting on June 17 1927 it was written:

Newspaper advertisement for Clara Bow films at The Regent in Norwich. Picture: Archant LibraryNewspaper advertisement for Clara Bow films at The Regent in Norwich. Picture: Archant Library

You may also want to watch:

"The Chief Constable reported that the measures adopted to prevent disorderly conduct in Prince of Wales Road had been most successful and there did not appear to be any cause for complaint."

Remember that in those days trams would be clattering backwards and forwards up and down Prince of Wales Road and lads would climb on the back to get a free ride.

In 1912 one boy fell off the back into the path of a car in the road and was killed. In 1911 there were 151 vehicles registered in Norwich.

The former ABC cinema on Prince of Wales Road is set to open as Mercy night club on Thursday (23/10/03). 

Date: 22/10/2003
Picture: Nick ButcherThe former ABC cinema on Prince of Wales Road is set to open as Mercy night club on Thursday (23/10/03). Date: 22/10/2003 Picture: Nick Butcher

Time has not been kind to Prince of Wales Road which has become an eyesore, better seen at night than during the day...or not at all.

But now comes the news that one of the most iconic buildings, recently the Mercy nightclub, could be turned into flats and penthouses called Regents Place and Alexandra Mansions.

It is an application which may to be welcomed by many and could result in Prince of Wales Road being given the boost it so desperately needs.

The Alexandra Mansions were among first homes built following the construction of the road in the 1860s.

A roof-top terrace of 12 properties built with Grey Holkham brick, similar to the brickwork at Holkham Hall, were sold at £850 pair - a hefty sum in those days.

The Regent Cinema was built by The Alexandra Picture House and Theatre Co., which took its name from an existing 140ft frontage of shops, offices and accommodation...and what a place it was.

It opened in 1923 and had taken 17 months to build. It was a centre of entertainment.

Equipped for variety acts as well as films it had a large stage, dressings rooms and an orchestra pit. The foyer was a work of art with a fountain and a goldfish pool. There was a waiting room for latecomers and a special parking area in Mountergate at "The Rink."

Much of the fancywork disappeared in 1961 with the arrival of the ABC, then Cannon, before it closed as a cinema and became the Mercy nightclub.

As for the future...time will tell. Let's hope it will be kind to this wonderful old building which deserves to be treated with far more respect.

With thanks to Maurice Morson.



Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists